You Choose, You Still Lose

Today is election day in Washington State. In a few minutes, I'm going to hop in my car and drive roughly 20 miles (35 minutes in good traffic) to cast my vote.

Why? I've been asking that question for almost nine months and have yet to get a straight answer out of King County Elections.

In February, I moved from the southeast end of Bellevue, near Issaquah, to Seattle proper. When I updated my driver's license to reflect my new address, I was whisked through the process so fast that I had no idea whether my voter registration had been updated. So I went back to the licensing office a few days later, explained that I didn't know whether they'd updated my voter registration. The nice man at the licensing bureau looked up my records and said yes, my change of address had been sent along to King County Elections and my voter registration updated.

So, in June or so, realizing elections were coming up this autumn, I downloaded, filled out, and sent off a request to be placed in permanent absentee status. This is a pretty common thing for Washington State residents: among those of us who vote, some 80 percent of us vote by mail (whether we're required to do so or not). I'd been on absentee status at my old address, but figured, bureaucracy being the way it is, they probably cancelled that status when I updated my registration. At the time I thought it was strange, but not necessarily weird, that I hadn't received a new voter registration card.

In August, with a primary coming up, I called King County Elections and asked about my registration status. "Oh, you're registered!" the woman replied with a perky voice. "Unfortunately, your new voter registration card was returned to us, so your absentee status has been cancelled." I asked where they'd sent the voter registration card. "Bellevue," was the perky reply.

I explained that I had moved to Seattle in February, changed my voter registration at the same time I'd changed my address on my driver's license, and confirmed with the license office that they'd updated my voter registration. "We have no record of that!" claimed Ms. Perky.

Then I'd like to update my voter registration now, please. "If you have Internet access you can download and send in the form. It won't take effect for the primary election, though, since it's less than 30 days away!" Since I was getting increasingly frustrated, I asked if I could vote at my old polling place—some 20 miles away—for the primary. "The poll workers should let you cast a provisional ballot!"

Great. So, I downloaded, filled out, and sent off a request to change my voter registration, and drove out to Bellevue to vote in Washington's new kneecapped, party-centric primary. The poll workers—members of the Greatest Generation, all—indeed let me cast a provisional ballot.

So, in October, I hadn't received a voter registration card. I called King County Elections; this time I got Calm Slow-Talking Man rather than Ms. Perky. "We show the new voter registration card we sent you was returned to us." Well, where did you send it? "Bellevue." I asked why they would send a new voter registration card to my old address when the whole purpose of changing my registration was to change my address? Mr. Calm: "We have no record of your changing your registration." Can I change my registration now? "If you have Internet access you can download and send in a form to update your registration," said Mr. Calm. "It won't take effect for the general election, though, since it's less than 30 days away."

You know my absolute favorite thing about this 30 day policy? Almost exactly 30 days ago, television and radio ads began appearing encouraging people to update their regisration, get their acts together, and make their votes count! Guess what people? Your vote won't count.

It's no wonder King County Elections is mired in accusations of inaccuracies, voter fraud, and poor practices, since, even when someone is entitled to vote and makes considerable effort to get their registration in order, the agency is incapable of processing the information. For nine months. And what's more annoying is that, my virtue of being required to vote in a precinct quite separate from where I live, I don't get to vote on ballot measures (like the Seattle's addle-brained monorail) which directly impact me.

Now, I'm getting in my car, and I hope those nice WWII vets at the elementary school near my old apartment once again late me cast a provisional ballot.

Related Entries